Retail is continuing to slash jobs, even as employment in the U.S. looks to have quickly bounced back from a string of record hurricanes.
Apparel and accessories specialty stores shed 5,800 jobs during October, after cutting 2,500 in September, months that saw Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hit various parts of the southern U.S. and its territories over the course of five weeks. Department stores also cut 2,300 jobs last month, after losing 2,200 in September, according to new data from the Labor Department.
Employment fell despite some of the country’s biggest retailers, including Macy’s, Target and Nordstrom, starting to bring on additional holiday help as they roll out seasonal deals and promotions earlier and earlier.
Overall, the retail industry lost 8,300 jobs during the last month, partially offset by gains of 8,200 jobs added in auto retail and 5,500 jobs added to building and garden stores, both of which could be attributable to hurricane-related recovery efforts.
Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said “it is difficult to draw conclusions because the jobs data is still distorted by the after math of the recent hurricanes.”
He added that there are currently “a significant number of job openings in retail” and October’s drop “could reflect a difficulty in hiring given the low unemployment rate.”
Retailers have also yet to fully staff up for holiday, Kleinhenz said, and that will add 500,000 or more temporary workers.
This time last year, retail had only lost 1,000 jobs, after adding 22,200 in September 2016. Even department stores had added 2,800 jobs last October, but specialty stores shed 15,600 jobs.
Total nonfarm employment in the U.S. was much rosier, adding 261,000 jobs in October, pushing unemployment down to 4.1 percent after increasing in September for the first time in seven years.
The labor bureau cited a sharp increase in hiring at restaurants and bars, which added 89,000 jobs that mostly offset a hurricane-related decline of 98,000 during September.
However, the bureau’s survey does not include employment from the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, where the damage to businesses and infrastructure from the storms is worst.
Puerto Rico spent weeks experiencing extensive flooding and without power, and it’s still unreliable, with mall operators like Taubman Centers and Simon Property Group reopening their local properties using generators.
Taubman’s chief executive Robert Taubman said recently that damage, mainly from Hurricane Maria, was severe at its Mall of Puerto Rico, and that some retailers are faced with rebuilding their stores entirely. Its anchor retail tenants Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue also sustained serious damage, but the latter is allegedly not working to reopen. Taubman filed a lawsuit this week, in an effort to force Saks to begin expedited reopening efforts.
The impact on retail due to lost purchasing power in Puerto Rico is estimated to be close to $5 billion, almost double the $2.8 billion impact expected from Irma and well over the $1 billion impact from Harvey.
For More, See: